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I Can’t Follow My Own Cooking Advice!

 

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It’s easy to give, but not easy to take, even when it’s your own. When it comes to culinary and entertaining tips, people think I’m Mother Wisdom. And it’s true — I give great advice! Now if I would only listen to myself…

Here’s a memorable example. A woman came up to me at my HASC event and said I gave her the best piece of advice in my first book, Quick & Kosher Recipes From the Bride Who Knew Nothing. It was in my chapter “Secrets of the 15-minute Chef” (page 21) where I say – NO EXCUSES!

Never make disclaimers or excuses for your cooking. Usually you are pointing out things that otherwise would have gone unnoticed. Remember your guests are not at your table as New York Times food critics. They’re in your home to enjoy the company and conversation.

It’s actually terrific advice, but I didn’t realize how hard it is to follow until recently.

We were invited to my friend Atara’s for a Shabbat lunch. Atara loves my chocolate cake and she asked me to bring some for dessert. No sweat! Erev Shabbat, I whipped up my One Bowl Amazing Chocolate Cake, doubling the recipe (as Atara mentioned a number of other guests who would be joining us). I poured the entire thing into a Bundt pan, waited the requisite 45 – 50 minutes and checked. Hmm, still raw, so I waited some more. Checked again –not yet. Waited some more checked again and boy was it done, well done!

I almost cried. Well, to be honest, I did cry, because it was five minutes to candle-lighting, and there was no time to bake another cake. Why should it matter so much to me? Dunno. Maybe it’s ego; maybe it’s because I write cookbooks and this blog and I feel that people expect a culinary masterpiece from me — some imaginative, creative patchka every time.

I didn’t even want to bring that cake because it was over-baked. I rehearsed all kinds of excuses, then started pulling things out of the freezer. Hey, even though Atara asked specifically for chocolate cake, maybe she would go for last month’s rugelach, or how about an old frozen babka?

Hubby talked me off the ledge all Shabbat, coaching me repeatedly to keep mum. He even descended to the dirty trick of reminding me of my own advice. Wasn’t I the one who said “no excuses”?

To my eye, it was charred and below my standards, but I knew that Atara was planning her dessert menu around it. I figured that it was more important to satisfy my hostess and bring what was requested of me than to succumb to my very fragile ego. Who am I to keep a chocolate cake from gracing her table, even if it’s not perfect?

So I bring it, lips are zipped and I hold my breath as she slices it before all of her guests. A hurried excuse is on the tip of my tongue. Hubby and I lock eyes: his face is a mix of compassion and drill sergeant (“Don’t you DARE say anything! It will be ok”). In minutes, the crisis is over. Each person is served a piece of cake and Hubby does the inventory because I can’t look. He reports to me later that no one left over even a crumb. “Did anybody ask for seconds?” I reply weakly. Always the perfectionist.

In pure fact, it was overdone, but only slightly. I was the only one who could tell. The lesson here is that only you know what you set out to do, what it’s “supposed” to look and taste like, and only you are overly concerned with the impression you’re making. The moral for me was to take my own advice seriously! Sometimes things just have to come full circle.

P.S. I think I know what I did wrong. Don’t double the batter for the One Bowl Amazing Chocolate Cake. It’s too rich and thick to mix well without over-mixing, and hard to bake through without burning the bottom. I know I’ll never do it again. If we need lots of cake, I’ll just bake two!

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About Jamie Geller

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Jamie Geller is the only best-selling cookbook author who wants to get you out of the kitchen – not because she doesn’t love food – but because she has tons to do. As “The Bride Who Knew Nothing” Jamie found her niche specializing in fast, fresh, family recipes. Now the "Queen of Kosher" (CBS) and the "Jewish Rachael Ray" (New York Times), she's the creative force behind JoyofKosher.com and "Joy of Kosher with Jamie Geller" magazine . Jamie and her hubby live in Israel with their five busy kids who give her plenty of reasons to get out of the kitchen - quickly. Check out her new book, "Joy of Kosher: Fast, Fresh Family Recipes."

 

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13 Responses to I Can’t Follow My Own Cooking Advice!

  1. avatar says: abby

    you know i’m just like that.By the way on my onion gallete where i substituted
    sour cream for the heavy cream, keep in mind i had eggs as a binder so nothing seperated. And don’t beat yourself up, i never write anything down, & i ‘ve been making challah for 15 years. then i forgot the measurments. so finally i tried over , and over & i got it right.
    You are a blessing to kosher food , don’t worry . And by the way are you born in the sign of cancer? i am . i see similarities.

  2. avatar says: Jamie

    thanks so much – what a compliment after a rough day! I think I’ll reread your comment over and over if you don’t mind – I’m officially a Gemini – May 29th – I don’t know much about this stuff but I do know that Cancer is next – so maybe there are some overlapping qualities

  3. avatar says: leah

    Hi Jamie, I would love to try your cake with gluten-free flour. Have you ever tried gluten-free baking? Can I use 2 c. gluten-free all purpose flour instead of regular flour? Thanks for your help.
    I love your first book, by the way and I am a “senior” cook. Your recipes are easy, no fuss and very tasty.
    Thanks for your help.
    Leah

  4. avatar says: Jamie

    Hi Leah, I love that you love the book! See it’s not just for new brides :-) I hope you’ll try the second book. So, I am not a gluten free maven by any means but without testing my guess is you should be fine with an equal substitute for gluten-free all purpose flour – please leave a comment and let us know how your test works out so we can officially recommend it to others.

  5. avatar says: Dina

    At one point, I think in one of your cookbooks, you recommended using a mandoline. I’ve heard that potatoes are harder with the mandoline. Have you tried more than one? Do you have a specific brand that you like more than another?
    Thanks.

  6. Hi Dina,

    There are a few things to be aware of when shopping for a mandoline. When it comes to choosing a mandoline its like anything else – there are very expensive versions and cheaper options as well, but mandolines are VERY sharp and can be dangerous, be sure to buy one with a hand guard and a blade guard and USE THEM. After that disclaimer, the brand and price range are really up to you. You don’t have to buy the most expensive one on the market but I would try to avoid the cheapest one on the market if possible. The least expensive versions tend to come with issues like – food that gets stuck or slips off, blades that aren’t sharp enough and usually they are missing some if not all of the protective gear. Duller blades are actually more dangerous (this is true for your knives also).

    I actually find the mandoline to be perfectly suited for potatoes – especially when I am making homemade fries. It is the ultimate instrument for making perfect equal sized slices of potatoes or any fruit or vegetable your are trying to cut or julienne. But BE CAREFUL, I can’t say it enough, the kitchen can be a dangerous place and a mandoline is one of those pieces of equipment that is low tech and can seem harmless, but it’s not. It takes practice to get used to it and you have to pay attention to what your doing when you are using it. Better to have all your fingers than perfect sliced vegetables :-)

  7. Wow……..how did you know??? I just took a lasagne out of the oven. It looks “underdone”. Today is my day, as a member of our shul’s “Hesed Committee” to deliver a meal to the family of a woman who has recently undergine surgery.

    I think that I will simply say that it needs reheating and trust that the lovely brownig that I would love to see NOW will happen then.
    Thanks,
    Ann Krupnick

  8. Ann, you are my kind of girl! both bc of the chessed and bc of your browning game plan. Your story is a perfect example of how we should not let our unattainable goals of perfection get in the way of doing what is right! Amazing of you to volunteer to cook dinner for the woman and her family. Wishing her a refuah shleimah – a complete and speedy recovery.

  9. avatar says: Sue

    Hi Jamie,

    I can totally relate!! Before I had kids, I did a LOT of baking, and I developed quite a reputation. I’ve had to eliminate gluten from my diet so I’m now relearning how to bake. It’s a painful process but worth the effort!! I can’t NOT bake and I have my standards ;-) . I just wrote a blog post about some gingerbread that was a disaster… fortunately it wasn’t something I was bringing anywhere!!

    Sue

  10. avatar says: Sue

    By the way… I’m going to print this post and put it on my fridge!!!

  11. awww… thanks! nice to know there are folks out there that can relate

  12. avatar says: Daria

    I was just reading your recipe for this cake, and there’s no cocoa powder listed. Is that an omission? I can’t imagine the pudding mix has enough chocolate flavor for an entire cake.

    Thanks!

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